Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 02 2011

On “small” accomplishments (… In Which I FIGURE OUT TEACHING)

I think I’ll let my two daily jot-it-down-after-school lists speak for themselves this fine Tuesday evening:

- Reached almost all the parents I called
- Saw my lovely PD at lunch, and totally went in to the afternoon feeling like a TAL teacher.
- Very excited about DDM interview
- Did lots of things I intended to do (bought after-school slippers, wore them after school, talked to every period about why they learned what they learned, read the rules in all but one class)
- HOLY CRAP! I got through 55 full minutes of material in 8th period today!! Yussss!
- got today together even though I was frazzled from being sick forEVER and having a sub and not being ready this morning because I had to make copies for my partner teacher
- Wrote four referrals for pretty damn good reasons, thank you very much, and called home about them.
- Remembered to have my kids track their exit tickets in 7th period! Or was it 3rd period?
- Got some good ideas from my PD about keeping kids busy
- 7th period did three refresher-quizzes today! AND SO I get to make them cookies for Thursday!!
- Everyone LOVES the Top Ten (meaning—they kind of care whether they get points).
-  Ooh, just stole an idea from a blog. Bingo!
- I can see my breath! (P.S. I live in TEXAS!)

CIE Notes:
- Do more for bored kids. Give fun options!
- Fix refreshers and quizzes.
- Have classes highlight TEKS we’ve covered. Or make them new TEKS trackers?
- BUY MORE TREATS. Give third period their tootsie rolls, dammit.
- Make new exit ticket things. Post-its are dumb.
- Come up with a real plan for self-tracking. What needs to change? What doesn’t?
- Come up with a better Top Ten scoreboard
- Think through SixBoxes activity more thoroughly
- Buy sixlets?
- Make edusoft answer sheet for tomorrow’s pop quiz?

***EDIT, 2/8:     This was the pop quiz my Brat aced! Booyah! ***

After Institute, I never would have guessed something like remembering to do exit tickets would be such a significant accomplishment. Or getting through a full lesson in a 55 minute class period. Or remembering to call parents of kids I wrote referrals for. I knew I would cheer for my kids when they mastered something finally or got 100%, but I never thought it’d be such a wonderful thing to see my Toothpik pick up his pencil or to have my Fckn Mohawk remember what Pi is.

But that’s because I didn’t know what teaching was yet. Being excited about these things doesn’t mean I’ve lowered my standards—it means I finally understand that these ARE real accomplishments. I now know all that must happen if a teacher is going to remember to do the exit ticket or get through a full lesson. It’s HUGE. When I was struggling so much in the fall, it felt as if everyone had these basics going and was focusing on bigger and better things. Now I realize they just had a couple more of the basics figured out than I did. And because teaching is teaching, having just a couple more of the basics feels like teaching on a whoooole new level.

I think I just hit upon something. Two somethings that are really the same thing. 1) The reason people who don’t teach can’t understand teaching, and 2) the reason first-year (first-semester?) teachers have it so hard AND can’t see that it will get better. When I say “teaching is teaching,” I’m referring to the way a tiny, stupid detail can ruin a whole lesson and be a complete mystery, or the way you can work and work and work and work and see absolutely NOTHING come of it. I mean that inexplicable feeling when you get a million suggestions and still feel like you have nothing, and that look you give other teachers when they complain about something you would LOVE to have the luxury to complain about. And their inability to believe you when you tell them so. In teaching, all the proportions are totally messed up. Simple things are incalculable, and things that are supposed to be a big deal are dwarfed by a sea of problems that feel prerequisite. And when people look at you so sincerely and promise it gets better, it might not be because they just don’t fully see how bad it really is (although, because teaching is teaching, it might)—it might be because they have had their teacher-goggles for a while and are used to all the teacher-proportions of things, and they know you haven’t, and aren’t yet.

6 Responses

  1. Danielle

    Wow. :) I’m bookmarking this so in October when I’m in my first semester of teaching math and I’m freaking out I can come and here and say- it’s not just me. Thanks girl!

    P.S. So excited to come observe you again. I”m stoked to see the difference. :)

  2. Stephanie

    Not to bash TFA, b/c I think it is a great program, but this is why teaching is traditionally a college major, with a FULL SEMESTER of student teaching. You really just did your student teaching on the fly this fall. And, now, it sounds like you “passed” and have graduated to teacher-dom.

    • Wess

      whoa whoa whoa. This is something I’ve been wondering, actually. Do traditional-route teachers NOT want to die during their first 16 weeks or so?

  3. Stephanie

    I am sure some do, but generally you hit that wall while student teaching instead. And with a teacher to support you, you aren’t just thrown into the deep end of the pool, but can work gradually up to full time teaching. A lot of the stuff that you figured out on the job, you get to figure out during student teaching, where generally you start out teaching one class/period, then add a second and so forth, so that by the end of the semester you are teaching full time.

    Of course, all of the learning curve for the specific students will be new every year.

    With TFA, (and other non-traditional teacher programs, tfa isn’t the only one that rushes this) there isn;t the luxury of that time. And that the need for teachers is specific areas, inner city math and science particularly, makes this an acceptable and viable option.

  4. Also, in traditional programs, you are still in school so someone is looking at your lesson plans and (if you are lucky) redirecting you when you are heading off track, giving you feedback and resources… saving you loads and loads of unnecessary time, angst, self-doubt and stress… but again, only if you are lucky. Loads of teachers in traditional programs get paired with mediocre, lame or AWFUL supervising teachers… in which cases they still have to figure it all out through trial and error, but at least reap the benefit of learning what NOT to do…

Post a comment

About this Blog

SWBAT close it

San Antonio
High School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)

“The minute you think of giving up, think of the reason you held on so long.” - John Maxwell


February 2011
« Jan   Mar »